A few of my favourite pieces.

1. Muhyiddin’s government is not stupid, just selfish, irresponsible, and utterly mediocre

In May 2021, the rising cases pushed the healthcare system to its brink, unleashing a third crisis: Public health. Malaysia was already suffering from a political and economic crisis. It was the same time that the Prime Minister said that he didn’t mind people calling him “stupid” when they’re angry. So I wondered: How could a government that has orchestrated the most dramatic political coup be considered “stupid”? Surely it was something else. If the description wasn’t “stupid”, it was probably “selfish, irresponsible, and utterly mediocre”.

2. “I don’t know what happened except that he died”: The unsettling pattern of death-in-custody cases

Death-in-custody cases bothered me for a long time since the start of 2021. Something so tragic and avoidable should not be happening so frequently. I started to read through case reports and interviews, and I found that these cases followed a disturbing pattern. Confusion — refusal of visit — refusal of providing medication — not knowing whereabouts — quid pro quo for information — enormous delay between police call and death. This was one of the hardest pieces to write. Emotions are part of the deal.

3. Small businesses are dying off and a million people lost their jobs — but nobody cares

The start of the pandemic was also a time of grave uncertainty. Every economist you talk to could already predict an economic recession, but most are not sure of how bad it could get given the unusual need of choosing between health or the economy. In my job, I started hearing about businesses halting what they do and eventually more and more were shutting down altogether. This is my first few pieces about the economy.

4. The surprising benefit of having the wrong government

It was widely accepted that the coup set off by Sheraton Move has brought about undemocratic instincts in our institutions and actors. Corruption became a routine. Integrity became a rarity. But there is also a theory that I held onto to keep myself sane: For the country to be better, it must first get worse. This is one of those times where the theory seems to be working — we are shown the most hopeful data about race.

5. The toxic birth of Malaysia’s B50

The prime minister had a Freudian slip when he said the country’s B40 (poorest 40%) had expanded to B50 under his watch. This wasn’t just a statistical adjustment. Poverty brings tangible negative effects, including a neuroscientist one. I have long admired the research by Robert Sapolsky on the intersection between poverty and stress. This article is about linking it to Malaysia’s B50.

6. The case of Azmin Ali

Like many, I was curious as to why a minister as disliked as Azmin Ali could assume the country’s second highest position (as de facto Deputy Prime Minister). I tried to stand on the other side to see if there was anything that I have missed. The success of this endeavour is still to be seen.

7. The collective delusion of Muhyiddin’s Bersatu

This article was about the unique way of understanding government popularity data. It’s common to use popularity data to affirm the government’s policies. But I argued that the seemingly high popularity of Muhyiddin contains many blind spots. If anything, his position is precarious.

8. Poor and you’ll get a fine, rich and you’ll be fine

When I heard about the Tenon village people who were fined simply because they wanted to get some supplies in the city, I was troubled. Their motives of breaking the Covid-19 regulations were benign. Their violation was almost necessary to survive. This was also the start of government ministers breaking rules with impunity. This article became about unfairness.

9. White flags: The most courageous act in the pandemic

White flags would forever occupy a bittersweet place in the mind of Malaysians. Poor and helpless Malaysians suffer in silence, and most of them do not how to ask for help. Suicide and mental health cases soared. This article is about mental health.

10. A minister’s grand tour of Istanbul

During the peak of Malaysia’s Covid-19, a minister was found to be on a leisurely travel abroad. The contrast between his calm and enjoyable travel and the desperate and dire healthcare situation was too stark. So I reimagined an Istanbul trip where every part of the itinerary served as a polarity to what was going on in Malaysia.